Welsh Government have ‘more than enough money’ to manage coal tips says Lords whip
The Welsh Government have “more than enough money” to manage coal tips left over from the industrial revolution without any more financial support, a UK Government whip has said.
Hereditary peer James Younger, the Viscount of Leckie, who sits in the House of Lords, was responding to a request that the UK Government “pay up” on clearing the coal tips which are a problem that pre-date devolution.
In October the Welsh Government criticised the UK Government for failing to make any extra money available to help make Wales’ most high-risk coal tips safe.
First Minister Mark Drakeford had called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help fix the problem created before devolution and show the people of Wales that the Union was “there at their back”.
But James Younger said that although the Welsh Government and UK Governments discuss the matter regularly, no more money would be made available.
“Ultimately, environmental matters are fully devolved, and the Welsh Government are more than adequately funded to manage all devolved responsibilities,” he said.
He said that there were 2,500 coal tips in Wales, including 327 in the higher-risk categories, “however, they are deemed to be safe”.
He added however that it was “very challenging and rather dangerous to do anything with them because remediation—for example, smoothing them out—is much more challenging in Wales than it is for the other 4,000 around the UK”. However the Welsh Government “can pay for coal-tip maintenance”.
He added: “The central pillar of the support we have given is to ensure that the Welsh Government are properly funded to manage their devolved responsibilities, including the remediation of vulnerable coal tips.
“At the 2021 spending review, the UK Government provided the Welsh Government with the largest annual block grant in real terms of any spending review settlement since devolution in 1998.”
Viscount Younger was asked by Baroness Humphreys, a Welsh Liberal Democrat peer, among others why the UK Government was not doing more to help clear Wales’ coal fields.
“My Lords, south Wales coalfields in particular made a massive contribution to the wealth of the UK over the years, with 40% of the UK’s coalfields being in Wales,” she said.
“We have already heard how climate impacts are increasing the risks that disused coal tips pose to our Welsh communities. Residents believe that the UK Government have a legal and moral responsibility to work with the Welsh Government to address this issue.
“Why can both Governments not put their differences aside, put the interests of the residents who live in the shadow of the coal tips first, and meet in the middle?”
Her argument echoed that of Welsh Finance Minister Rebecca Evans MS, who said in October that the UK Government’s stance was “indefensible”.
“These tips are a legacy of the UK’s industrial past,” she said. “The need for work to address this impact of disruptive climate change was unknown, and provision was not made when Wales’ funding arrangements were agreed in 1999.
“The UK Government had an opportunity to show it is would stand behind the communities whose efforts created huge wealth for the UK, instead it has chosen to turn its back on them.”
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